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Supplements

Dietary supplements contain one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins; minerals; amino acids; herbs or other botanicals; and other substances) or their constituents is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. Athletes may choose to consider taking dietary supplements to assist in improving their athletic performance. There are many other supplements out there that include performance enhancing supplements (steroids, blood doping, creatine, human growth hormone), energy supplements (caffeine), and supplements that aid in recovery (protein, BCAAs).

Energy Supplements

Athletes sometimes turn to energy supplements to increase their ability to exercise more often. Common supplements to increase an athlete’s energy include: Caffeine, Guarana, Vitamin B12, and Asian ginseng. Caffeine, a common energy supplement, can be found in many different forms such as pills, tablets or capsules, and can also be found in common foods, such as coffee and tea. Caffeine is used to improve energy and increases metabolism. Guarana is another supplement that athletes take to enhance their athletic ability, it is frequently used for weight loss and as an energy supplement.

A 2009 study from the University of Texas reports that caffeinated energy drinks decrease sporting performance. They found that after drinking an energy drink, 83% of participants improved their physical activity parameters by an average of 4.7%. This was attributed to the effects of caffeine, sucrose and Vitamin B in the drink – however scientific consensus does not support the efficacy of using Vitamin B as a performance enhancer. To explain the performance improvement the writers report an increase in blood levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine and beta-Endorphin. The adenosine receptor antagonism of caffeine accounts for the first two, while the latter is accounted for by the Neurobiological effects of physical exercise.

Caffeine has been around since the 1900’s and became popularly used in the 1970’s when its power of masking fatigue became highly recognized. Similarly, the caffeine found in energy drinks and coffee shows an increased reaction performance and feelings of energy, focus and alertness in quickness and reaction anaerobic power tests. In other words, consuming an energy drink or any drink with caffeine increases short time/rapid exercise performance (like short full-speed sprints and heavy power weight lifting). Caffeine is chemically similar to adenosine, a type of sugar that helps in the regulation of important body processes, including the firing of neurotransmitters. Caffeine takes the place of adenosine in your brain, attaching itself to the same neural receptors affected by adenosine, and causing your neurons to fire more rapidly, hence caffeine’s stimulating effects.

Recovery Supplements

Common supplements to help athletes recover from exercising, include protein and amino acid supplements. The main use for athletes to take dietary proteins are for hormones, oxygen transport, cellular repair, enzymes and conversion to fuel. The intake of protein is a part of the nutrient requirements for the normal athlete and is an important component of exercise training. In addition, it aids in performance and recovery. Dietary protein intake for well-trained athletes should occur before, during and after physical activity as it is advantageous in gaining muscle mass and strength. However, if too much protein and amino acid supplements is consumed it can be more harmful to the body than it is beneficial; health risks include: dehydration, gout, calcium loss, liver, renal damage, diarrhea, bloating, and water loss. A bountiful protein diet must be paired with a healthy, well-rounded meal plan and regular resistance exercise. Characteristics of this particular diet include the type of exercise, intensity, duration and carbohydrate values of diet. The most effective way to secure the natural nutrients required by your body for optimum health and physiological performance is by eating your vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, sugars and carbohydrates, which can be procured from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Post-exercise nutrition is an important factor in a nutrition plan for athletes as it pertains to the recovery of the body. Traditionally, sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade, are consumed during and after exercise because they effectively rehydrate the body by refueling the body with minerals and electrolytes. Electrolytes regulate the bodies nerve and muscle function, blood pH, blood pressure, and the rebuilding of damaged tissue. These types of drink are commonly made of glucose and sucrose in water and has been seen to improve the football players’ performance.

A substitute for sports drinks is milk, which contains many electrolytes, nutrients and other elements that help to make it an effective post-exercise beverage. It is true that milk helps replace fluids and electrolytes lost after the athlete has worked out. A recovery drink is supposed to replenish the sugar lost, and help recover the muscles to be able to workout at full intensity by the next time they workout. When compared to plain water or sports drinks, research suggests that chocolate milk is more effective at replacing fluids lost through sweat and maintaining normal body fluid levels. Athletes drinking chocolate milk following exercise-induced dehydration had fluid levels about 2 percent higher (on initial body mass) than those using other post-exercise recovery beverages. These results allowed for prolonged performance, especially in repeated bouts of exercise or training.

Performance Enhancing Supplements

In the extreme case of performance-enhancing supplements, athletes, particularly bodybuilders may choose to use illegal substances such as anabolic steroids. These compounds which are related to the hormone testosterone, can quickly build mass and strength, but have many adverse effects such as high blood pressure and negative gender specific effects. Blood doping, another illegal ergogenic, was discovered in the 1940’s when it was used by World War II pilots. Blood doping also known as blood transfusions, increases oxygen delivery to exercising tissues and has been demonstrated to improve performance in endurance sports, such as long-distance cycling.

An assortment of supplements.

The supplement, Creatine, may be helpful for well-trained athletes to increase exercise performance and strength in relation with their dietary regimen. The substance glutamine, found in whey fiber supplements, is the most abundant free amino acid found in the human body. It is considered that glutamine may have a possible role in stimulated anabolic processes such as muscle glycogen and protein synthesis, for well-trained and well-nourished athletes. Other popular studies done on supplements include androstenedione, chromium, and ephedra. The findings show that there are no substantial benefits from the extra intake of these supplements, yet higher health risks and costs.

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